If you’ve been trying to lose weight but have been unsuccessful, you may be wondering what other options you have. While there are many different avenues for shedding excess pounds, one you may want to consider is using prescription weight loss medications. In this post, Ryan Singerman, DO, PPG – Weight Management & Bariatric Surgery, covers some common questions around weight loss medications to help you decide if this is something you want to explore, with help from your provider.
When should you consider using medications as a weight loss method?
If you’ve been unsuccessful at losing or maintaining a healthy body weight over a period of six weeks to three months, you should consider reaching out to your doctor for a medical review and discussion about your options, including prescription weight loss medications.
How do weight loss medications work?
There are many different types of medications that can help with weight loss. Some suppress appetite, some make you feel full or more satisfied, and others increase the number of calories you burn a day by essentially boosting your metabolism. As there are about 52 different types of obesity, it’s critical that you work with your provider to find the right medication for you. There is no one-size-fits-all solution.
Are weight loss medications safe?
Nothing is 100% without risk. All medications, supplements, herbals, oils and spices have potential side effects. The benefit to using weight loss medications is that they are subjected to rigorous scientific study and placebo-controlled trials that give us a strong understanding of what their safety profile is, including benefits, risk factors and what to watch for. In general, weight loss medications are as safe as they can be, but each must be evaluated on an individual basis.
What should you know before you begin taking a prescribed weight loss medication?
It’s important to know that weight loss medications are not used to replace lifestyle changes, but instead are used to support long-term healthy habits, which should include appropriate calorie intake, intentional movement, stress reduction and adequate sleep. The long-term goal of weight loss medications is to help you reach a healthy weight. After that, you should be weaned down or off the medication and should instead work to maintain a healthy weight without the use of medication or with the minimum dose.
Additionally, medications that are being used for other medical needs can make it harder to lose weight, which is something that should also be evaluated before taking any other medications.
How are weight loss medications taken responsibly?
If you are on weight loss medications, you should always take them as prescribed and report any and all side effects or concerns to your medical provider. You should never stop your medications without communicating with your provider first to ensure you are stopping or weaning off them safely and appropriately.
What should you tell your provider during your weight loss discussions?
When speaking with your provider, be open and transparent about all the barriers you have faced when trying to lose weight. Do you find it hard to be full? Do you know how to recognize true hunger? Do you engage in emotional eating/stress eating/boredom eating? Are your portion sizes out of healthy bounds? By letting your provider know what you struggle with, they will be able to formulate a treatment plan that will be the most beneficial for you.
How do you know if medications for other conditions are impacting your ability to lose weight?
Being mindful of the medications you are taking, and their possible side effects, is part of being engaged in your own health care. Using websites like WebMD or Drugs.com and checking a medication’s potential for adverse effects like “weight gain,” “increased appetite,” “fatigue”, or “somnolence” may all give clues that the given medication may be making it harder to lose weight.
How do you know if your current medications are working?
It’s always important to pay attention to your body and progress. You should be seeing an average weight loss of one to two pounds per week. It won’t necessarily be “easy” to lose the weight, but you should notice that it seems easier to lose weight with the medication. If you feel like you’re still struggling to lose weight, your current medication may not be effective or at the most effective dose.
What are warning signs of improper use of weight loss medications?
If you are losing more than five pounds a week without making lifestyle changes, are feeling lethargic and have low energy, or your friends and family are noticing abrupt personality changes in you, it’s possible that your medication is being misused or you have too high a dose. It’s important to talk with your provider if you notice any cause for concern.
Weight loss medications can be a safe and effective method to support your weight loss journey. Be sure to schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider if you think weight loss medications may be right for you.